Friday, February 29, 2008

Back to the Top: USO Voting Madness

Time is running out on your chance to affect history. Vote early and often, and let's make this the best celebrity sign holding picture ever. Honestly, this is your chance to shape your legacy for generations to come.

Because when one day your grandson asks you "Granddad--what did you do back in the war?" you want to be able to say more than just "I read Army 2.0, Timmy." Good luck getting love from your kid's kid with that one.

No, you want to be able to say "I read Army 2.0, and I gave Andrew a great idea for a sign to hold with one of the stars of the 1995 cinematic tour-de-force, Hackers."

There's an answer that will make your family love you the way that you deserve to be loved.

Update: Yellow Elephants, 2008 Edition

Back in August I railed a bit on America's elite, dancing around the subject of my own potential hypocrisy along the way (and starting the conversation that eventually led to my manifesto on the three buckets of IRR draftees). In case any of you were wondering where our cast of characters now stands...

As many of you have heard, I'm sure, Prince Harry has been busy. I can honestly say that I had no idea he was in Afghanistan, but we must have gotten here at almost the same time, as we've both been here 10 weeks. Meanwhile, back in the States...

Chelsea has been doing her part...

And I can't say that I know where Tagg is at the moment, but wherever he might be, I don't doubt that he's doing his part to fight the scourge of neo-global islamo-fascism wherever he finds it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Good causes

My great friend Chris Huddleston asked me to pass this along, and I couldn't be more happy to do so.

Chris's girlfriend Sara is part of Team in Training, and she is in the process of raising money for a half-Tri coming up. Check out her blog, and check out Team in Training--it's a pretty neat program, and all the money raised goes to fight leukemia/lymphoma.

Happy training, Sara, and good luck.

Notes From the Homefront, Bailey the Cat #3: Mythbusters

Recently while watching TV with my mom, I heard someone ask "cat got your tongue?" I couldn't understand that. Why would someone think a cat has anyone's tongue? That sounds gross and completely unattractive. What would they do with it? As a cat, I can guarantee I have never gotten anyone's tongue. Sometimes when my mom is singing, I put my paw over her mouth to discourage the singing, but I guarantee that I have never tried to take her tongue.

Pondering that one, made me think of some other "cat cliches". One would be "curiosity killed the cat". And while I will be the first to admit that I'm curious, I also have never been killed by this curiosity.

One thing I am especially curious about is gravity. I like to explore gravity - knocking things to the ground from various heights to see if gravity brings it to the ground each time. I have yet to find an object that does not fall to the ground, with the exception of balloons maybe. But I keep trying, and I plan to write a paper on my discoveries one day. And most importantly - I do not plan for my exploring to lead to my death.

Another cliche/saying is "cat's cradle." I don't get this because I have never known a cat to have a cradle. I have a basket. I have a plushy box. I have a scratchy box with cat nip. I have a tent. I have a scratchy post. I like to sleep in bags. But I do not have a cradle. Maybe other cats have cradles, but I doubt it.

Lastly, there are two phrases with which I agree. The first - cat like grace/reflexes. Cats are pretty awesome and graceful and reflexful. I can leap and balance and climb--all with the utmost grace. So I get that one.

The second phrase is "who let the cat out of the bag". I would like to know who let the cat out of the bag too, because cat's like being in the bag. I like to climb into mommy's suitcases or grocery bags. Some bags crinkle and that's pretty exciting. Some bags smell like other places. So while I think that the creator of that phrase got it right with a cat in a bag, I just ask that everyone keep the cat there.

What might have been...

Andrew and the Legends of Wrestling

Andrew and Bo Bice

Bonus points to anyone who can name all of the Legends above...and don't forget to vote below!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My day will come

I have thus far been awful at attending USO events. Just terrible. We've had a steady stream of very nice celebrity/entertainer/athlete types who in no way have to take time out of their busy/important lives to visit a war zone, and I end up blogging or going to choir practice instead of going to meet them. So far I've missed bo bice (devasting), titans of rodeo (merely disappointing), and the legends of wrestling (life alteringly disastrous).

But I'm not gonna lie to you--there are some upcoming USO tours that put all of the previous USO tours to shame. I won't say who is coming and I don't know when exactly they'll be here, but I promise to attend, take pictures, and post them here in all of their awesomeness.

I will give away one hint, though, because honestly, I really think you deserve it--one of the future visitors starred in the 1995 tour de force cinematic masterpiece that was "Hackers". And no, that one person isn't Angelina Jolie.

I leave it to you to guess at who it might be, but for now I need everyone's advice. If you had a once in a lifetime chance to take a photo with a cast member from one of your favorite 37 movies of all time, which Hackers quote or related message would be on the sign that you forced the star to hold?

A. Hack the planet!
B. Hackers of the world unite!
C. My Crash Override is bigger than your Zero Cool
D. Some combination thereof

I need some help on this one, guys--comment away, and feel free to add your own suggestions. I'll only get one shot at this picture so I better make it count!

While I was sleeping...

My wife totally went out and started a blog without telling me!

She had mentioned that she was considering this, but come to find out that was more than just idle talk...

I love you babe, and don't think this gets you out of your guest responsibilities here at the 2.0! The cat and I can only blog so much...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another two bite the dust

Note that I did not have a strict President's Day decoration, so I went with the card Adam sent with pictures of Lincoln and Washington strategically inserted.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Healthy Lifestyle

When I arrived here at the Forward Edge in December I immediately embarked on a health regimen the likes of which my body had never seen.

I ate well. I worked out every day. I got my 2 mile time down to 13:15 and my 10K time under 45--both pretty good times for me, especially at elevation.

And after doing all that for a month, my body rewarded me by becoming gravely ill, and vacillating between various levels of sickness for nearly the last 5 weeks. After coming back too quickly--I ran twice during week 2, and it set me back at least 10 days with the cold--I have ceased working out entirely. My newfound responsibility at the office further enables the sedentary lifestyle, as 12-15 hour days at the office are the norm.

I loved all the running, too. Loved it. Which leaves me at something of a loss--without violating General Order #1, what can I do each day to bring the pleasure that I got from running 4-6 mile? Lacking other options, I've more or less settled on eating.

I don't go crazy or anything...but I usually drink a soda w/ lunch and dinner. I don't always hit the salad bar. If the fish looks fishy and there aren't other tasty looking options, I won't hesitate to hit up the chicken tenders or a grilled cheese sandwich. Vegetables still figure prominently into the diet, and I still drink about 5-6 liters of water each day, but I've definitely taken a step back on the healthy eating front.

To summarize: I'm making up for not working out by eating worse than I was before I stopped working out. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Yeah, that's what I think too. Sigh...

I look forward to being healthy soon (fingers crossed) and resuming a regular running schedule. We'll see how it all goes. For now I will find sollace that no matter how little I run, it's still probably more than the Air Force...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Parts of Afghanistan Are Extremely Violent

Mrs. Exnicios forwarded me this (really long but really interesting) article from the Times. It's more odd than I can tell you to be so geographically close to that part of the war, and so removed from it at the same time.

It makes me feel guilty, reading that. And then guilty for feeling guilty, as it's a little insulting to the guys going through that shit to summarize their existence through my own self pity, you know? Ultimately you just feel lucky that it's not you dealing with that life. Which makes you feel guilty all over again...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I didn't need the skin on my face anyways...

My Saturday morning didn't go that well, and it all started when I fell asleep w/o brushing my teeth Friday night. Through my recent research on dental clinics (don't ask) I know not brushing not only has a negative effect on oral health, but both increases my chances of getting pneumonia and decreases my hopes for carrying a healthy baby to term. Serious stuff, I know.

The point, though, is that it was not until this morning that I realized that my toiletries kit was not, in fact, sitting on the floor by my door where I always leave it. A quick tear through the hooch confirmed my suspicion that I must have left the thing in the restroom yesterday when I was doing my morning hygiene.

I ran over to the shower trailer, and of course, my kit was nowhere to be seen. I ran back to the hooch and started scrambling to find things with which to clean myself, because oh by the way--today isn't just any day. No no, today is the day that I got to brief a general, as well as the guy who will eventually command me.

Fortunately, I had yet to throw out the random care package from the "Support Our Troops" organization that I received earlier in the month. That package had been filled with various things that one really needed in a care package back in 2003 before they rigged up these wars to support commerce. So I found a toothbrush (there were actually 5 in the box--how many toothbrushes does one guy need??), a single blade disposable razor, soap, toothpaste, and what I thought was the coup de grace--shaving cream.

Sadly, it turns out that the little can of "shaving cream" was actually a little can of bug spray. I luckily discovered this before attempting to lather my face with the stuff, but still.

So, with my new found toiletries in hand, I trudged back to the shower trailer. I brushed my teeth with no incident, and I put on some deodorant--the one thing that I had extra of in my own stocks. Next up was the shaving, and let's just say that it didn't go too well. My face doesn't respond well to shaving to begin with, and the crappy plastic safety razors really don't work for me at all. In the absence of shaving cream I lathered my face with regular soap as best I could. The single blade wouldn't actually cut anything unless I went against the grain and really scraped my skin for all I was worth. When it was all said and done I cut myself in 4 different places, and left my face a red, bloody mess. And I still looked like I didn't really shave.

I went to the PX later in the morning and spent $27 on toiletries, and $6.50 on a haircut, and I think my clean cut coif distracted from the blood spots on my face. Luckily I'm pretty good at briefing important people, and I think that they looked past my slightly unkempt appearance and focussed on the content of my character (and/or my briefing).

And what, you might ask, is the key lesson learned from this tale of a morning gone wrong? The odds of me keeping my promise to not ramble in a post from time to time were never very good.

**I enjoyed attaching an unrelated photo to the last post, so in another fit of lack-of-creativity I've gone the non sequitur route again.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The More Things Change...

I have moved jobs yet again, but this time the move is largely cosmetic. I'm still working for the same organization I was before, but I've more or less shifted from being a worker bee to being in charge of the shop. The team I work with is great, and largely self sufficient, so I don't foresee much in the way of superviseree duties coming with my exciting new job title.

What this does mean is that I am in a better position to shape our overall strategy as a staff shop. The move also strips one layer of the chain of command between me and the Task Force Commander, which means I will have a more active role in shaping our overall strategy for four provinces in eastern/central Afghanistan. Pretty exciting stuff, all in all.

The downside is that I now have a lot more of the day to day beauracratic stuff on my plate. Giving the islamo-fasiacists the what-for apparently involves a ceaseless stream of meetings and slideshows and teleconferences (who knew?) and I'm now the guy who has to make sure all of those things get taken care of. Before, I could focus on my slice of the pie (which was already focussed on strategy) and leave the boring stuff to the boss.

So, all in all this is a good move, and I'm in an infinitely more interesting job than I was when I first arrived. Because honestly, coming all the way to Afghanistan after everything I went through at Fort Jackson, Fort Bragg, the CAQC and FOB Patriot, if I spent my time here lifting weights and playing video games...

You guys know what I'm getting at.

**I couldn't come up with a related picture for this post, so I put in this one of an adorable puppy instead, for one or more of the following reasons:

A) Everyone loves adorable puppies
B) My new gig requires long hours that make me fall asleep in my water bowl
C) I'm trying to establish a pattern of behavior
D) All of the above

I know which reason I'm leaning towards, but I leave it for y'all to guess at...

It was worth a shot...

After a few half-hearted attempts at getting out of my obligation to the Army back in June, I pretty much resigned myself to serving out my time...until I received a care package from Adam yesterday.

The card (pictured here) reads: "I figured this card was gay enough to get you sent home. In case it's not I've put some stuff in here to help ease your burden."

And I did, in fact, open it right in front of my commanding officer, just as Adam (sagely) suggested.

So did it work? Nope...still here until the end of the year. Ah well...maybe next time certain wedding related photos get included? Something to think about...

Thanks, Adam--I really, really, really appreciated the package. I've been humming "The Power of Love" to myself for the past 2 days...

Talking bad about the NBA

It's a popular thing to do.

This Slate piece gives the NBA a hard time over the recent Dallas/Nets trade.

Quoth Slate: "[A trade in the NBA is] more like trying to solve a 20-variable equation on your graphing calculator."

Yes, because no one bothers with complex statistical analysis or salary cap math in any other major professional sports.

Sigh...NBA, why do they all hate you so?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Words of Warning

The Onion wisely points out the likely pitfalls of electing Obama this Fall. Their solution? Wait until we can elect Zeus from the Fifth Element.

My take? An Obama presidency will result in the the most hopeful 65% tax bracket the world has ever seen.

While we're looking at the media, how snobby is this piece from the Washington Post? I'm not really impressed by the "can you believe how little people know????" stories anymore. I get it, 57% of high school juniors think George Washington freed the slaves. I'm betting people were just as dumb 50 years ago, we just weren't as good at measuring stupidity in entertaining ways. I call that progress.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Congrats Revoked

Wade. Seriously. Just because I'm an awesome friend and congratulate you on the success of your Wake Forest NBA players doens't mean your Deacs can all go and beat Duke and stuff. Come on, now.

Kidding aside, I'm not actually that mad at the Wake Nation. If I had to pick one game for Duke to lose, this was it. It might get Wake in the tourney which is good for the ACC, and a good friend of mine is a fan (the aforementioned Wade) and I enjoy it when my friends enjoy sports triumphs.

One final note, Wake's new coach Dino Gaudio is the former head coach at West Point. While at Army, Dino recruited a plucky, little known 6'5'' small forward from Ohio. This young man would go on to set Cameron Indoor Stadium on fire in November 1997 in the first regular season Duke basketball game that I ever attended. I did color guard for the game, even.

Nice shooting, Sultan--at 3 points per minute played, I think the outcome might have been different if your coach (not Dino, who had left at this point) had played you more!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Notes From the Homefront, Lauren #2: Damage caused by sonic booms may be deductible

As I (Lauren) continue my time at Fort Belvoir's Legal Assistance Office, I have been tasked to run to Tax Center this year. The tax center provides free income tax return preparation for Active Duty Soldiers, their dependents and retirees. Its been a frustrating process trying to pull everything together, but with opening day (complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony. . . and cake!) on Monday, I think we may actually be ready.

I've been to two weeks of tax training and am now an official IRS VITA/TCE site certified tax preparer. (I have a certificate to prove it.) Through all of this, I've discovered the more ridiculous side of tax law, the minutiae laws regarding every aspect of life (according to the IRS.) While I do not offer any of the below as tax advice, I do want to share some of my favorite tax rules and regulations with you.

You may choose to have your IRA invest in collectibles - including alcoholic beverages.

Reported income must include any back pay and damages received for emotional distress received to satisfy a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Damage or destruction of trees, shrubs or other plants by a fungus, disease, insects, worms or similar pests is not deductible. However, sudden destruction due to unexpected or unusual infestation of beetles may be a deductible casualty loss.

Guide dogs are a deductible medical expense.

Losses due to blackmail or ransom payments may be deductible.

If you receive a bribe, you must report that income.

If you won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize (or similar award) and meet the following criteria, you do not need to include the winnings in your income. 1) You were selected without any action on your part to enter the running for the award, 2) you are not required to complete any future services, and 3) the prize is transferred directly from the payer to the government unit or a charity as designated by you.

Income from the Northern Mariana Islands may be subject to US Federal tax.

Damage caused by sonic booms may be deductible.

Wristwatches are never a deductible expense, even if you need to know the correct time for your job.

IRR Patch, the Return

Did anyone else know that the IRR patch came not just in tactical form, but in a patriotic, flag-waving, inspiring-fear-in-terrorists-looking Red, White 'n Blue?????

Because I most certainly did not.

But now I do.

And I want one.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Love for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams

David Ignatius wrote this article about the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Team (JBad PRT) last month, and this article about PRT's in general a few days back.

The PRT is the Army/NATO's basic unit for engaging in development work and in bolstering governance and the rule of law. My job is to assist the brigade commander in planning and implementing strategy for the employment of the 3 PRT's which operate in our area of eastern and central Afghanistan.

Just thought I would share, for those interested in the non-blogging aspects of my life here in Central Asia.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Primeau and Showtime

As anyone whose known me for awhile can attest, I picked out the names for my first born kids years ago--number one is Primeau (spelled like the hockey player), and number two is Showtime (spelled like the cable channel). Pretty awesome names, I know. I mean, just practice saying them for a second...doesn't Showtime Exnicios just roll off the tongue?

As most of you also know, I got married about 7 months back, and Mrs. Exnicios--despite my always being up front about my baby names--isn't exactly sold. On either of them.

Or so I thought, until yesterday she sent me this article on baby names (and no, we're not contemplating babies). Right there at the bottom of the first post the experts at The Baby Name Wizard suggest Primo as a name for one's first born, or a kid born on January 1st.

Now, they might have the spelling a bit wrong--and the last thing I want is a bunch of people to steal little Primeau's name from him--but I'm all the same glad to see some well deserved credibility for my future first born's name.

So is Lauren warming up? Time will tell. But at this point, I have enough friends who are gonna call the poor kid Primeau regardless of what his real name is...I just hope Lauren knows what she's in for.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Two More Holidays Down

At this rate, I'll be home by Veterans Day! Oh wait...

Previous photos here and here.

And yes, I have allowed my shelf to get a little messy. I've been celebrating the days between holidays with a nasty, nasty cold that's among other things reduced the time I devote each evening to tidiness.

Also, it should be noted that the football (my Super Bowl decoration) doesn't just sit there looking pretty. It's a dip bowl, and when you press the button it slides open, revealing your dip (or salsa or whatever) while it plays the NFL on Fox song. In other words, it's pretty freaking awesome.

More Cal Related Shenanigans

In my time in Berkeley, all we ever got by way of controversy were your regularly scheduled protests (boring), the town wide attempt to impeach the President (slightly amusing), and the disappointingly dull antics of the Berkeley Tree People.

Now, all of a sudden, things are really heating up in that other city by the bay.

First you've got the made up recruit, a kid in Nevada or Utah who staged a fake press conference to announce that he was signing with Cal for football. Turns out noone at Cal had ever even heard of the kid. I dunno about football, but someone should hire the kid for his fake-event planning skills. Waitta be, buddy.

And second, you've got the "Marine Recruiting Station" controversy. This one really speaks for itself so I'll abstain from further comment. Stories like this are what make Berkeley the self-importantly hilarious (but wonderful) place that it is. Oh, Berkeley--sigh--how I miss you...

Reble, Reble, I Like Your Playlist

As some of you may know, while I took the safe path to internet riches (i.e. the one that leads to internet upper-middle-classness), my younger cousin Nick said to heck with all that, moved himself to California and launched himself a startup. Waitta go Nick, right?

The fruits of those various labors are starting to come to fruition with Reble.FM. The basic idea is that you link to a buddy list through Reble's IM client, and then you can stream any song on your friends' computers--so long as only one person is listening at a time. Neat stuff, I know.

So go and check out Reble.FM, see what the nice people at TechCrunch have to say, and drop Nick a line to congratulate him on a company well-founded. Here's to great success for Reble, and here's to many more companies along the way.

And for the record, yes--I blatantly stole TC's headline on this one. Suck it, Arrington!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Duke v. Miami and a Gallery Update

Just a heads up that we have our first update to our Gallery and Guest Book for the month of February!

Thanks so much Ann, Kurt, Amy and Navin for the pic--it put a huge smile on my face. I can't tell you how much it meant to me, and I can't wait to see each of you soon.

I still love you, Tom Brady

For those of you who were curious, yes, I was able to watch Superbowl XLII the other day. The game was broadcast live (sans commercials) with kickoff going down at about 4AM my time. It was an exciting game, and we had ourselves a fun little party at my old unit--we even got some grub from the pizza hut here on BAF to make things seem as super bowl-y as possible.

Yep, other than getting up early (and then working all day), and the outcome, I'd say that Superbowl XLII was an undeniable success.

Now, some of you might be surprised that I was rooting for the fellas from New England. And on the surface, yes, there are a lot of reasons that one could root for the Giants. For starters, all things being equal I'd prefer Belichick not pass Joe Gibbs on the all time list of Superbowl wins. And pulling for the underdog, that can be a good time (just ask all the assholes who gang up on poor, defenseless Duke every year in the Marchish time frame). And sure, some Boston sports fans might be a tad on the annoying side from time to time, causing folks to pull against them.

But despite all that, the Patriots were my team for one, very important reason--Mrs. Exnicios. My beautiful wife Lauren, you see, is a Patriots fan. But isn't she always posing on the 2.0 decked out in Redskins gear? She absolutely is. Because, you see, my wife and I already have our share of sports rooting issues. We made the decision, the two of us, that the NFL was going to be one place where we could get along. Lauren, bless her heart, wears my Skins jersey for Skins games, and her own Tom Brady jersey for Patriots games. And me, I root for Brady and the Pats as well, something I'm proudly admitting to today.

By the way, when I said one reason? I really meant three.

Reason the second--Tom Brady. It's been said before, but it bears repeating--Brady is a very, very attractive man. Every time I see him play, a little piece of me falls in love with him.

Reason the third--It's never the wrong answer for a Redskins fan to root against the Giants. Underdog or no...they're the Giants, man. The Giants. Blech.

Editor's Note: The unflattering self-portrait included in this post is to assuage Mrs. Exnicios's that her husband was looking too skinny in this shot, where our hero is busily enjoying Thai food. I'll see your skinny, Mrs. Exnicios, and raise you one double chin. Talk about sexy...

Sultan Jeff's Stuff to Say #2: "A Few of My Favorite Things"

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite movies is The Sound of Music (stop laughing). Well, in keeping with The Sound of Music theme, here is a list of "A Few of My Favorite Things" while I'm deployed here in Afghanistan:

Whiskers on kittens (just kidding)

The 2 hrs in the morning when I workout, read devotionals, and eat an incredible breakfast (especially the whipped cream covered strawberries)

The 30 minute break I take in the afternoon to go for a walk and grab a cup of coffee

Eating dinner while I watch Sports Center

The 2 hrs in the evening when I read and watch a movie (so far I've watched The Big Lebowski, Airplane, Fletch, Usual Suspects, Bourne Identity, and I'm half way through Bourne Supremacy)...and I'm reading "The Bible in a year"...and C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters

Eating lunch at a local guy's (Aziz's) restaurant or with the interpreters on the FOB ....once a week or so

"Cinnamon bread Saturday" when we enjoy the most delicious bread in the world....from the same local guy (Aziz)

"Sunday morning sleep in" include church service in the afternoon

Reading emails from friends/family

Calling home in the evenings

Finally, getting pictures of my triplet nieces and nephew (Audrey, Lydia, and Josiah)

Fortunately I haven't come across any biting dogs or stinging bees.

Hope everyone out there is doing well.

God bless.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Congrats to Art Monk and DG

I can't think of two more deserving inductees into the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Darrell got in as a first ballot guy, which is a helluva honor in its own right. DG was a great player, and a great guy (still IS a great guy--yeah, that's what I meant).

Art Monk, on the other hand, had failed to make the cut in his 7 previous years of eligibility. This yearly snubbing had come to represent all of the snubbing that the Redskins as an organization have faced through the years as easily the most anonymous franchise in the NFL to have won 3 Superbowls in 9 years.

During that run, Art Monk quietly held three of the most important records in the NFL--most receptions in a season, most consecutive games with a reception, most career receptions--only to watch those records fall prey to the live-ball era of 1990's NFL passing offenses. None of his records stood for long, and by the time he was eligible for the HOF, no one seemed to remember that when Art Monk caught over 100 passes in a single season back in 84 or 85, that that was a monumental achievement. And honestly, leaving off a man who held the record for most career receptions prior to Jerry Rice? That's just plain dumb.

Enough griping--here's to you, Art Monk and Darrell Green, on a well deserved honor.

Hail to the Redskins.